Random Magic Tour: Pirates! May 10-30
The Lost Ship
In today’s feature, we’d like to share the story of real-life pirate, Sam ‘Black Sam’ Bellamy, and the tale of a lost ship.
Sailing the high seas was -- and remains -- a dangerous business from time to time.
In this quote from Random Magic, our heroes Henry and Winnie are caught in a tempest on the open ocean, and have to fight for their lives:
She drew her hand back to hit him again. He mumbled incoherently. She shook him, hard.
“Wh--” Henry said, his eyes flickering open. “Wh--”
“You’re here,” she shouted over the wail of the wind. “Here, here with me.”
“Wh-- I have to go back. I can’t desert them. Let me go.”
She shook him again. “It’s not real, Henry. Wake up. Come back. There’s nothing waiting for you there but the grave.”
He pushed her away, struggling to stand up. “Let me go. I can save them. I can--”
She slapped him. His eyes popped open.
“Henry…Where is it?”
His lips moved, but no sound came out.
“Henry,” she said, her green eyes burning like torches through the darkening air, “We need the other ship. We need the ship or we’re going to die. Where?”
From: Random Magic by Sasha Soren
Will they survive? Well, Winnie’s a born fighter, and she has magic and willpower enough to fight the supernatural power that’s trying to claim Henry’s life.
But to face the terrifying power of an ocean storm, well, that’s a different matter -- the ocean is wide and wild and, too often, lethal.
This was the case with the lost ship, the Whydah, and Captain Sam Bellamy.
Sam was the youngest of six children born to Stephen and Elizabeth Bellamy in Devonshire, England. Elizabeth died giving birth to Sam, and was buried on February 23, 1689, three weeks before her infant son Sam was baptized on March 18.
The motherless child was left to wander the streets and it’s possible he became a sailor at a young age. In a biography connected to the Real Pirates Exhibition (National Geographic), researchers say Sam might’ve seen combat, also at an early age:
His later displays of unusual leadership and daring as a pirate captain indicate that he probably had military experience -- either in the Royal Navy, or as a privateer -- during the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714). (Whydah.org)
In any case, during his wanderings across the sea, he wound up in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and this is where a fateful meeting changed Sam’s destiny.
Local legend says he fell madly in love with a girl called Maria Hallett. Her parents refused to let a poor sailor marry their daughter.
Then in his mid-twenties, Sam set off to make his fortune and return to Maria, this time as a wealthy suitor.
Initially, he planned to salvage treasure from the Spanish galleons sunk off the coast of Florida. Sam and his friend Paul (Paulgrave) Williams set out on their journey, but met with no success. Treasure hunters had already taken the treasures scattered below the waves.
Somewhere in late 1715, Sam fell into the company of pirates. He joined the crew of the Mary Anne (sometimes spelled Marianne), led by Ben Hornigold, nicknamed Horn ‘o Gold. Ben’s first mate was Edward Teach, immortalized in pirate lore as the infamous ‘Blackbeard.’ Sam was called ‘Black Sam,’ due to his long, dark hair.
Ben’s crew became increasingly restive -- England was his native country, and he was unwilling to attack English ships. The crew grumbled that they were missing out on rich holds of treasure. In the summer of 1716, the grumblings of the crew flared into outright mutiny.
Ben lost control of his crew and Sam took his place. Sam had a reputation for showing mercy to captives and having a fair, democratic hand with his crew; these unusually gallant qualities in an outlaw of the high seas earned him the nickname ‘The Prince of Pirates.’
His gentler qualities aside, Sam was a driven man, hell-bent on securing enough wealth to be able to return to Cape Cod to the waiting Maria.
How driven? His career as a pirate captain lasted barely a year, before his death at age 28. In that time, Sam and his crew captured more than 50 ships.
His career at the helm started with the capture of the Sultana, and he and his crew ransacked dozens of ships, ending with the capture of the Whydah Gally.
The top-of-the-line ship was a rich prize - 300 tons, outfitted with 28 guns, and carrying unimaginable wealth for every member of the crew in gold, precious jewels and trade goods.
With trademark generosity, Sam spared the lives of the Whydah Gally’s crew and of her captain (Captain Prince), and gave the Sultana as a gift to the vanquished Prince.
Then, with a hold filled with treasures, he set sail again -- this time, for the coast of New England.
He never saw Maria again. The Whydah was caught at midnight in a brutal Nor’easter off Cape Cod. The storm was so violent that the winds snapped the masts.
Eyewitness accounts dating from April 1717 are recounted in this article about the Whydah, from the National Geographic archives:
According to eyewitness accounts, gusts topped 70 miles (113 kilometers) an hour and the seas rose to 30 feet (nine meters). Bellamy signaled his fleet to deeper water, but it was too late for the treasure-ladenWhydah. Trapped in the surf zone within sight of the beach, the boat slammed stern first into a sandbar and began to break apart.
When a giant wave rolled her, her cannon fell from their mounts, smashing through overturned decks along with cannonballs and barrels of iron and nails. Finally, as the ship's back broke, she split into bow and stern, and her contents spilled across the ocean floor. (‘Pirates of the Whydah,’ National Geographic magazine, 1999)
Some 143 men died that night, including Black Sam. The churning waters off the coast of Cape Cod scattered the wreckage of the Whydah for miles in every direction, and the weightier treasures, like gold and silver, now useless to Sam and his crew, sank beneath the waves.
Then-governor Samuel Shute sent local salvager and cartographer Captain Cyprian Southack, to recover ‘Money, Bullion, Treasure, Goods and Merchandizes taken out of the said Ship.’
Southack made a map of the wreck site, shown below:
|Image: (Map) Wreck site of the Whydah, circa 1717, Capt. Cyprian Southack|
Two members of the Whydah crew survived, and Southack discovered that the ship had been carrying some five tons of silver, gold, and jewels, divided equally into lots and stored in chests below deck.
The treacherous waters had claimed the proud Whydah and a vast fortune, the lives of more than a hundred men and Black Sam, himself -- only 500 to 1,500 feet (152 to 457 meters) from shore.
The ‘Prince of Pirates’ had sought and won wealth beyond his wildest dreams, but the only thing it bought for him was a watery grave.
Shown above: Sam Bellamy, by the Musical Blades (Lyrics)
The indifferent waves just kept washing over the sand shoals off Cape Cod; in time, the story of Black Sam and the lost ship was nearly forgotten and became nothing but an interesting tidbit of local lore.
For nearly 270 years, the bones and buried treasures of a doomed crew of pirates lay hidden and forgotten. Then, in 1984, the Whydah rose again.
Underwater archaeological explorer Barry Clifford was obsessed with the story of Black Sam, and made it his mission to find the wreck of the pirate captain’s lost ship.
A member of The Explorers Club, mountaineer, and jungle explorer, maybe it was only a matter of time before the adventurous historian felt, as writer Mark Twain once characterized it, ‘a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.’
So he did. He put a team together and they started searching for something, anything, to find the resting place of the one ship amid thousands. It was the goal of a madman or a dreamer, as he’s acknowledged in a video clip (coming up):
‘It’s very challenging diving. Over 3,000 ships have wrecked on the Cape, it’s well-documented. That’s why it’s called the graveyard of the Atlantic.’
For years, Barry obstinately carried on his quest to locate the Whydah, in the face of failure and ridicule, saying, ‘People didn’t really believe this thing existed. We were highly ridiculed at first, for even looking for it, you know, “Those lunatics, there’s no pirate ship out there.”’
Three years went by; Barry and his team had put in hundreds of research hours and thousands of dives and had nothing to show for it.
The quixotic quest continued, but the longer and longer it went on, the more impossible it seemed that they’d ever succeed.
And then something happened.
‘Just when it seemed like we couldn’t go on anymore,’ he recounts in the video clip below, ‘we went out one morning…’
If you’d like to find out what happened, well, here’s what happened!
Shown above: Underwater archeological explorer Barry Clifford recounts the story of his quest to find the Whydah. (Via: National Geographic)
And so ends the tale of two adventurers, separated by nearly 300 years -- although, in a way, brothers at heart.
This story about Black Sam and the Whydah is part of Random Magic Tour: Pirates!
Shown above: Book trailer for Random Magic, a wild tale packed with strange tales and even stranger places, comedy, drama, friendship, courage, love, sacrifice, stormy seas and, yes, pirates.
Yes, we know -- you just got caught up in the drama! Of course, that’s perfectly delightful, and the whole point.
So, if this dark tale of a pirate prince and his doomed ship was interesting, you’re welcome to come along and find about more real-life and fictional corsairs, buccaneers and quite a few female pirates -- in fact, a whole fleet of them, in the Random Magic Tour: Pirates! series, Pirate Queens.
Feel free to read more pirate tales, sing a few sea shanties, learn about pirate grub, gear and ships -- and perhaps even find some hidden treasure…
Like maybe right here!: Rum + Plunder Treasure Hunt
Play to win a cuddly version of the infamous pirate, Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach!
The main Rum + Plunder treasure hunt is open internationally! Here’s another fun way to win something piratey and cool: Browse prizes or join the hunt…
Bonus: Find even more pirate plunder, with Little Pirate Prizes,these aren't marked on the schedule and they're not part of the hunt, but they're out there for visitors to find, so have fun finding some cute pirate things: Follow the tour
Have fun and good luck!